7 Ways to Boost and Maintain Creativity

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By UB therapist Chelsea Alarcon, LPC

Creativity is often thought of as a personality trait or unique talent that only few people are lucky enough to possess. Scientific research has shown that creativity is something that we actually all possess at different times and in different situations. Some of us have creative hobbies, while others are required on a daily base to use creativity at work.

Creativity can be highly useful for solving problems or presenting something that is new, fresh, or innovative. Throughout my work with people who value creativity, I have noticed many of them feeling discouraged at different points in time about their work. Sometimes this discouragement comes when they reach a “writer’s block,” feel that their ideas are not worthy of further exploration or commitment, or experience fear of failure. All of these are normal emotions to feel when creating. Presenting an idea, physical product, or concept that is your own can require great courage and vulnerability.

Here are 7 practices to consider starting to boost and maintain your creativity:

Embrace curiosity with a non-judgmental attitude. Allow ideas, even ones that you or others may think are “wild” to be present in your mind. We may think of something as “possible,” “impossible,” “strange,” or “far-fetched” because of impressions the world or even our life situations have left on us. Exploring thoughts while attempting to be non-judgmental toward them can feel daunting for many people. With time and practice (for example, doing some mindfulness meditations), we can allow ourselves to be more free-thinking.

Take a new perspective. Research has shown that distancing ourselves, whether mentally or physically, from our project or the problem at hand may make it more likely that we will think creatively when we come back to address it. Taking a new perspective may involve imagining ourselves as if we were in someone else’s shoes, traveling to a faraway destination to a new culture, or interacting with people who we feel are different from ourselves. Doing some of these things can bring about new insights and inspiration.

Create or find a supportive environment. Being with other creative individuals can feel inspiring, or for some, discouraging due to receiving harshly-worded criticism. While it can be important to receive feedback on your work, it is equally, if not more important, to be amongst people that can deliver that feedback in a non-harsh or critical manner. Presenting a new or idea takes courage, and it is helpful to have supports to talk to or receive encouragement from when we are up against cutthroat criticism or critiquing.

Work on being more self-approving. In the same way that others can give us harsh or critical messages about our creative works, we can repeat these messages to ourselves. Self-criticism can come from a place of wanting to protect ourselves from criticism and/or real or perceived rejection. While self-criticism can be protective, it can also prevent us from taking risks that we need to let our work be seen, learn, and grow. If we practice self-approval, we can boost our confidence enough to take risks. With these risks, may come new opportunities or possibilities.

Do something fun or relaxing. Research has shown that creativity can increase when people are in a positive mood state. If you find yourself feeling frustrated with your work, anxious, sad, or distracted, take a break to do something that feels refreshing and uplifting to you before you decide to re-address your project.

Practice good sleep hygiene. The results of one scientific study suggested that sleeping 8 hours may make it more likely that a person will have time to process information and think of a creative solution to solve a problem. It may sound cliche; however, this study suggests that the phrase “sleep on it,” may have a bit of truth!

Keep a journal. An idea can enter your mind at any moment. Certain moments our thinking may be more disinhibited (i.e., more freely flowing) than others, such as when we are bored, in transit, or just waking up from a dream. It may be helpful to jot down the idea so that it can be re-visited later. Journaling ideas may also get us into the practice of being more aware of when an idea is crossing into our thoughts.